Extremism is a Poison Pill
It’s no secret that today’s Republicans are at war with one another. Over the last several years the right flank has grown increasingly militaristic in its rhetoric as well is in its deeds, but is it a winning strategy or path to nowhere? Common sense would dictate the latter, and yet on they soldier, increasingly isolating themselves from the mainstream as they stake out ever more hard-line positions while pulling even the moderate Republican voices to the right as they go.
It Started with RINOs
The most obvious flaw in today’s far-right militaristic ideology is the concept of a purity test. Republicans are scrutinized and graded on their voting record and rhetoric like no other party in the United States. Stray too far from the conservative line and you’re tainted a ‘RINO’ – an impostor who must be ‘purged’.
Whoever invented this gem of a moniker was either a genius yet diabolical Democratic strategist or, more likely, a myopic conservative who didn’t understand the concepts of inclusion or compromise. Simple logic dictates that you can’t expect to be the party of the big tent and yet haul your rank-and-file members before the ‘purging’ firing squad. It’s inconsistent and short sighted, yet practiced today without so much as pretext to disguise their disgust with those who fail to measure up.
It’s not surprising that die-hard conservative extremists would embrace the concept of a purity test for their party leaders. What is surprising is that use the of pejorative RINO and terms like purity test are tolerated in general within the party by the more moderate, establishment Republican leaders. These are offensive, exclusionary terms by definition and turn off those in the middle who would otherwise lean right. It begs the question: how many Republicans have left the party as the extremists attempt to hijack the organization and demonize their own more moderate members?
Grover Norquist and his Illogical Taxation Pledge
Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge is yet another example of extremist ideology run amok. Governing costs money, period. The idea that a politician must pledge to never raise taxes is like a gardener pledging to never use more water, no matter the circumstances. What about during a really hot year? The marginal income tax rate could be lowered but simple logic dictates that if you lower it too much and you run out of money for necessary items, you’re all going to have to break your famous pledge. Then what?
Pledging to NEVER do something in politics should be a red flag to the moderate and reasonable peoples of this country that something isn’t right. Politicians taking the pledge are either short sighted or pandering. Either way, it’s a fool’s errand and a silly pledge, but so far it’s tolerated and Norquist is considered important by conservatives.
Tea Party Patrons
The Tea Party claims to champion fiscal conservatism, but their approach to governing has been so extreme that many in the political center are turned off by the harsh rhetoric and political brinkmanship. The result is a tarnished brand leaving many in the political center turned-off and unwilling to identify with what they view as an extremist – and in many cases racist – organization.
Tea partiers haven’t helped themselves by embracing extremist politicians like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and other bomb throwers and firebrands. It’s great press, but it doesn’t lead to the majority or the presidency.
Today’s Republicans are not shying away from the topic of immigration driven mostly by the bloviating Donald Trump. But immigration built this country, and as a great and free country, our population is liable to continue to grow as more and more people come to our shores. The xenophobic strategy of demonizing immigrants at the expense of the long term party health is just another example of short sighted extremism trumping (pun intended) political realities.
Conservativism is Doomed to Fail Anyway
Social conservatives are agog over family values, tradition, and religion. But nothing in our society ever remains the same. The most they can hope to do is slow the progress. Today’s conservatives are pulled along with social change in spite of their stalwart opposition even if they don’t realize it. Back in 2000 when then presidential candidate Bush used gay marriage as a wedge issue to win the presidency, the American electorate was so uncomfortable with the concept that it proved to be a highly effective strategy. A mere 15 years later, the country’s mood has shifted to such an extent that gay marriage is now the law of the land, and even right-wing politicians consider it a settled matter for the most part. No one expects a reversal on policy after the Supreme Court ruled on the topic, and the idea of an amendment to the constitution is a pipe dream shared by only a few.
On issue after social issue, and given enough time, the winds of political reality blow ever leftward leaving those unwilling to change in continuously shrinking minorities. Taken together, the militant and shortsighted views of the American conservative movement is deeply flawed and can’t continue to govern unless it changes course in a significant way.
You can’t exclude, demonize, bully, and insult without long term consequences. This should be simple and obvious, but to the American extreme right, it makes perfect sense.